Tuesday, 21 July 2009

British Museum, Paul Hamlyn Library

Slideshow of British Museum and more

Today we visited the British Museum. On the way we stopped at the site of the Charles Dickens’ house during the 1830s.

Charles Dickens house


The British Museum is known for it’s grand, round Reading Room.

group at British Museum


group in British Museum

Lion of Knidos, 350 BC
Lion of Knidos, 350 BC

But the Reading Room is now used for special exhibitions, so the research facilities can now be found at the Paul Hamlyn Library in the British Museum.

Among the well-known people who used this room were politician and historian Thomas Babington Macaulay, novelist William Thackeray, the poet Robert Browning, Italian nationalist Giuseppe Mazzini and naturalist Charles Darwin. Novelist, Charles Dickens also studied here, and told his biographer John Forster that his days in this reading room were the most useful he had ever passed.

The Paul Hamlyn Library is a public reference library generously supported by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. I took the opportunity to speak with a librarian, who told me the museum’s collections can be searched online. The library is used for access to the British Museum website, research books, resources for teachers, children’s books, family trails and backpacks. The Museum’s archives can be seen by appointment. The library holds 18,000 volumes including archaeology, history, art, numismatics, Egyptology, classical antiquities, oriental art and museum studies.

Of special interest to me was the Children’s Collection and resources. The librarian explained there have been efforts to make the British Museum more family friendly. The library has recently expanded the children’s corner which includes books, reference and non-fiction, children’s magazines, an art area with free art materials and block activities. I even picked up a bookmark by librarians on Websites for Children.

The Paul Hamlyn Library @ the British Museum

The library offers the free Hamlyn Family Trails booklets to help children and parents explore and enjoy the Museum’s collections. I picked up three booklets: Sailing on the Nile: A voyage through ancient Egypt, Spreading the Word: A trail about writing and communication and Chasing Rainbows with Mama Wata: A trail about colour and shapes for young children. The library also provides free activity backpacks with puzzles and games to help children explore certain areas of the library. Backpack themes include African Adventure for ages 5-9. Great Greeks or Egyptian Mummies for ages 7-11. Roman Britain Job-Seekers, God’s, Goddesses and Wise Men: A South Asian adventure, Archaeologists’ Adventure and Marvellous Mexico for ages 9-12. The librarian allowed me to check-out one backpack and view its contents. In the God’s, Goddesses and Wise Men: A South Asian adventure backpack, you can dress up as an ancient Greek, try the children’s games, sniff the bottles and guess the smell, meet the elephant head god, build a temple and listen to Tibetan instruments.

children's backpacks for check-out

The British Museum even had a special gift shop for children.

Children's Shop @ British Museum

Later I had a pub dinner with a London friend and he took me to see the Freddie Mercury statue at the Dominion Theatre.

Freddie Mercury

Then I met up with library friends to finally see the new Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince at the Odeon Cinema. The movie was really good, kind of dark. It left me wanting more! We even spotted Emma Watson, who played Hermione, in a fashion ad after leaving the movie.

Emma Watson fashion model

Pictures of British Museum and more

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